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Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-off-my-lawn dept.
CowboyRobot writes "The January edition of Science, Technology & Human Values published an article titled Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate, which details interviews with 42 faculty members at three research-intensive universities. The research concludes that faculty have little interest in the latest IT solutions. 'I went to [a course management software workshop] and came away with the idea that the greatest thing you could do with that is put your syllabus on the Web and that's an awful lot of technology to hand the students a piece of paper at the start of the semester and say keep track of it,' said one. 'What are the gains for students by bringing IT into the class? There isn't any. You could teach all of chemistry with a whiteboard. I really don't think you need IT or anything beyond a pencil and a paper,' said another."
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Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:21PM (#42863051)

    In my experience students pay more attention to a piece of paper handed to them than if I say "the syllabus with all the test and assignment due-dates is available on-line". If an instructor assumes that everybody in the class is comfortable with computers and will actually look at an electronic-only syllabus, it's a recipe for disaster, although I admit that in a computer science department it's probably a safer assumption than usual.

    In one of my classes with over 100 students, it's a month into classes and I still get questions about where the electronic class notes are, even though I explained it on the first day, it's on the syllabus (both on paper and on-line), and it's in the same location for almost every other course at the university. Although most students get it, some students are quite clueless. At least if you hand them a piece of paper in class they don't have the excuse that "they couldn't get it to work" or "my computer was broken", or "my interwebs aren't working from home". I treat it the same way as e-mail versus paper mail: if you want people to pay attention, send it to them on paper. It's harder to ignore or claim for technical reasons that you somehow missed it.

  • by jythie (914043) on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:22PM (#42863059)
    Interaction? Unless the class size was ~200, I can not recall having any professors who were unwilling to stop and answer questions or expand on points that the students seem to be having trouble with.
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:25PM (#42863127)

    At my university, the CS department are, counter-intuitively, some of the most reluctant to use our online capabilities and classroom presentation tech.

    Why counter-intuitively? Dijkstra has been very vocal on this topic throughout his whole life. And you can hardly get more CS-y than him.

  • Re:OTOH (Score:4, Informative)

    by hedwards (940851) on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:26PM (#42863149)

    No, that's actually more recent. I remember when I was a kid having to do a lot more work because my handwriting was much smaller than my classmates. The reason for the specificity is that students get rather good at using the largest margins, typeface and font size that they can get away with to pad their work. It means that if they want to pad out their work, they have to go to a lot more work than just adding additional points to their report.

  • by sdavid (556770) on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:47PM (#42863551)
    I teach in the social sciences. Early on in my teaching career, ten or fifteen years ago, I was pretty gung ho on some of these systems, but over time I've become increasingly skeptical about them.

    The reason is that using technology properly is hard, time consuming, and can detract from classroom teaching. A simple example: put up too many slides, and students concentrate on them and ignore what I'm saying. Put the whole lecture on those slides (and put them online) and students won't attend class. Students rightfully understand that there's no point attending unless there's something to be gained by doing so. Of course, what they miss is that skipping removes the important interactive component to learning that they get in the lecture setting, at least for small to mid-sized classes. Now, you can replicate some of that interactivity online. There are a lot of techniques: online discussion groups, student created wikis, that sort of thing. They work, although not as well as class discussion, in part because students can easily game whatever scheme you put into place to make them participate in a way that can't in class. They are also hugely time consuming to use. If I'm mandating using a discussion group, I or the TAs have to moderate it and keep track of participation quality. Moodle, the courseware package we use, can count participation events, but that tells you little about the quality of a student's participation. I think, for a fairly traditional lecture course or seminar the benefits of using courseware are comparatively small and the costs in my time and in TA time just too great to be worth it. I think there is an important place for it where you do away with the traditional lecture component, but I'm not willing to go that route, at least not yet.

    I do use Moodle for online readings, communication with students, posting the syllabus and class slides, receiving assignments, and returning grades and comments. I also usually turn on the student forums, for those that like to use them. All of this is useful stuff, but it just replicates things that we could do using paper and bulletin boards. Heck, my powerpoint slides could just as well be presented using an overhead projector.
  • I teach Engineering (Score:3, Informative)

    by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:12PM (#42863959)
    IT for IT's sake in the classroom is ridiculous. Like all other technologies, it needs to be examined for its utility in a certain application.

    I teach engineering thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid dynamics. All of these courses involve using basic fundamental equations to solve real world problems (sizing pumps and heat exchangers properly, etc.). I do example problems in class on the board and walk through them step-by-step so the students can follow the *procedure*. Then I throw a modified problem at them, set it up on the board, and prompt the class what the steps are to solving this problem.

    If they had to solve these problems in the field they would have to pull out a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a book of property tables, so that is how we roll in class. There *are* some computer programs that will automate many of these calculations in the field, but I want them to understand what those programs are doing and to be able to verify the answers. I tell the students this - the good students understand why I am making them do it the long way, the poor students whine that it is a waste of their time.

    I do utilize Powerpoint to show photos and videos of real-world applications. Showing engineering students how things can blow up and fall apart when they don't understand the fundamentals is a great motivator, provides an entertaining break for the student from the number crunching, yet is still educational in the "big picture" sense. A few of my classes are amenable to demonstrations where I can get a student or two to come up and make something go *BANG* using some apparatus.

    I am working on digitizing my lectures using PDFs produced by a LiveScribe pen, which essentially produces an electronic lecture. My handwritten notes become visible at the rate I would normally write them during a lecture, and a simultaneous recording of my voice plays along with the text. A student could sit down at a computer, open this PDF and have an experience similar to following the lecture (unfortunately without real-time ability to ask questions). I consider this a fall back for students who for whatever reason cannot attend class.For everything else, there is email, phone, or my office hours.

    I generally try teach to the "B and C" students in the crowd - the ones that are putting their shoulder to it but are struggling with a concept or two. Exposing these students to these problems showing a basic procedure, then graphical illustrations of the importance, prodding them to think through the problem seems to work very well for these students. The feedback that I get from my students indicates that they like the flow of my classroom.

    "A" students generally could be handed a poorly-written subject text at the start of the semester, told when the exam dates are, and would still find a way to do well. "D" students might physically get their bodies to class occasionally, but their minds aren't there. All of the IT in the world won't change these outcomes, though it does probably improve the A student's understanding of the topic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:40PM (#42864375)

    We are unimpressed *and* actively impeded by the University bureaucrats.

    I want to post a lot of things in a web-accessible fashion for my students: most of that is static, so the assorted CRMs are overkill (not to mention the giant PITA it is to post static content via the CRM *without* bullshit CRM dressing all over it), and for the content that has a *real* dynamic component (not just "I blogged again, teehee" dynamic), the CRMs are a nightmare.*

    Yet, if I want to just deal with rolling my own? Good luck with that. Uni. (and occasionally even Dept.) IT will not only be of no assistance, they will *actively thwart* attempts to do this sort of thing.

    *Maybe people accustomed to having their hands tied can tolerate that sort of treatment long enough to learn it, but not me.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:56PM (#42865503)

    In other words (I finished too soon) any alternatives need to prove that they are superior solutions that are worth spending lots of time and money on.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:15PM (#42865805)

    Software engineering is not programming either. Software engineering is really about how to manage programming projects.

    No, "how to manage programming projects" isn't software engineering. "How to manage programming projects" is IT Project Management.

    Software engineering is how to design software systems (particularly, large software systems). The CS:Software Engineering relationship is loosely analogous to the Physics : Aerospace Engineering relationship.

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